Is it really bad to eat right before you go to sleep?

question-answer-color-v-2Every single time I am in bed and ready to go to sleep, I start to get extremely hungry and need to go have a snack. I eat a balanced dinner around 8:30 every night. Is it really bad to eat right before you go to sleep? What is a good snack before bed? -Carlotta

question-color-v2You don’t want hunger to disrupt your slumber. A snack is a fine alternative to increasing your dinner, and often times a  glass of milk may be enough, or even try a bowl of light cereal. Stick to easily digested starches that promote serotonin levels and help sooth you off to sleep. Examples are: graham crackers, pretzels, Goldfish crackers, white bread, bananas and applesauce. – Debbie M., MS, RD

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Posted on April 16, 2013, in Ask Our Dietitian, Health, Helpful, Nutrition, Weight Loss and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Shannon Edwards

    Easily digested starches? Maybe for an individual with 7% body fat, but you have to consider your readership. I would make the assumption that most readers are looking to lose weight or to maintain. In that case, recommending that they eat a quickly digested starch is not beneficial from that standpoint, because they are not burning those starches as efficiently when at rest and therefore not tapping into fat stores, which is a benefit of the fasted state while asleep. With those readers in mind, would you recommend a quickly digested protein supplement or something that does not generate much of an insulin response?

  2. Really? Carbs with empty calories at bedtime? Not the best choice. Maybe a little frozen greek yogurt with a few berries and/or some nuts, or something low on the glycemic index.

  3. eating nuts (almonds/raisins/dried cranberries/pistachios) right before going to bed ? :) I think I am pretty sure its not good for trying to reduce the body fat but just in case if its ok to eat these, please let me know.

  4. To Shannon Edwards, Protein does stimulate an insulin response, when eaten alone..
    “Insulin release is also stimulated by amino acids such as leucine, and insulin stimulates cells to absorb amino acids and to synthesize proteins. Since insulin lowers blood sugar as it disposes of amino acids, eating a large amount of protein without carbohydrate can cause a sharp decrease in blood sugar. This leads to the release of adrenalin and cortisol, which raise the blood sugar. Adrenalin causes fatty acids to be drawn into the blood from fat stores, especially if the liver’s glycogen stores are depleted, and cortisol causes tissue protein to be broken down into amino acids, some of which are used in place of carbohydrate. Unsaturated fatty acids, adrenaline, and cortisol cause insulin resistance.”

    To get back to what to eat/consume before bed to ensure you stay asleep and keep adrenaline low so you do not wake up, its best to consume something salty and sugary before bed.

    Eat something salty before bed: Sodium lowers several stress mediators that can rise during sleep including serotonin, adrenaline, cortisol, and aldosterone. Salt optimizes the blood volume and circulation essential for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, helps stabilize blood sugar, increases or maintains the body temperature, and raises the production of carbon dioxide (see #8 in this list). A canning and pickling salt added to food, a sugary beverage, or in bone broth eaten before bed is a good way lower inflammatory nocturnal substances.

    Eat something sugary before bed: Like sodium, sugar is anti-stress and raises the body temperature. Ripe fruits, fresh orange juice, or milk are good sources of sugar before bed. These carbohydrate choices also contain anti-stress minerals (magnesium, potassium, and calcium) that benefit energy production and sleep quality. Fresh juice with some salt and gelatin added is a good combo, and to make it more potent coconut oil eaten off a spoon can help produce energy efficiently and balance the bloods sugar. Starchy carbohydrates should be avoided because they make blood sugar balance difficult.

    I also wouldnt consume nuts/seeds as they contain PUFA’s (polyunsaturated fatty acids)

    Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) are promoted as the “healthy fats” and “essential fats” yet they are universally toxic to human physiology and poison our energy production at multiple points, suppress immune function, lower the body temperature, harm the brain and heart, inhibit protein digestion, promote estrogen and cancer, shorten lifespan, and negatively affect our detoxification systems. PUFA also serve as the basis by which toxic and inflammatory breakdown products are made such as prostaglandins, isoprostanes, and lipid peroxides. Excess consumption of PUFA will not only degrade sleep quality, but they are silently a figure head in the rise in obesity and chronic disease in the western world.

  5. Wow! There are some strong opinions out there and everyone has some valid points.

    Let’s look at the original questions: 1) Is it really bad to eat right before you go to sleep?; 2) What is a good snack before bed? My answer to these for THIS individual is valid, given she’s eating dinner at 8:30 pm – late by most standards – but is hungry upon going to bed. Let’s assume that’s around 11 or later. We are talking about what to consume RIGHT before the moment of sleep. Can we all agree that any calories consumed this late are extra in her day? Nuts, cheese or other high-fat/calorie choices are not ideal. The goal is to satisfy her HUNGER so she can sleep. Thus a salad or other lightweight food won’t suffice. Additionally, I stated a glass of milk would be suitable. No problem adding a little protein powder if that alone is not enough. A single portion of one of the items I suggested is only 100 calories or so, perfect for meeting the immediate need of energy to the brain and getting something in the stomach to quiet the rumbles.

    Now, let’s put this to bed. lol (I couldn’t resist!)

  6. Victor Ornelas

    I am a 17 year old boy who is looking to build muscle. Should I eat 3 meals with 2 snacks in between or is that too much?

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